WAITING FOR THE MAGI                           for Samuel Beckett & O. Henry
Hey, buddy, got a comb? That depends; you got the time? Watch out! (Joke of the Magi)
“Resist!” I wail 
as left-brain soldiers 
goose-step through my mind. 

A single right-brain 
freedom fighter 
guards my entry door. 

“Sergeant Triage,” I command, 
“Slit no envelopes 
not addressed by hand.” 

Left-brain troops outrace 
General Sinister, 
lurching  in his jeep. 

A death platoon, their orders: 
Quarter any soul you roust 
on shadowed streets! 

I stumble round a corner 
in my mind, 
see soldiers bending	 

over a broken child; 
they raise blood-smeared faces, 
fan out, move toward me. 

The general pulls up in his jeep, 
commands they heave the wasted 
child at my feet. 

I shift my weight and hold his gaze, 
refuse his invitation 
to look into the corpse’s face. 

If I can keep these guys at bay til Pegasus 
arrives with my right brain, 
then I can mount and ride the sky....
Poetry is the art of substantiating shadows. 
          - Edmund Burke
DEAD END whoops a roadsign, squares 
its yellow shoulders to my view; I yank 
on the handbrake, angle wheels to the berm 
the way I’d park an oxcart centuries ago. 

I stroll inside a diner, slide across cracked vinyl, 
elbow-prop my chin, watch the sun extract itself 
from a rusty chain of clouds.  The droop-eyed 
waiter flares a lemon-tasting look when I say No 
to coffee, raise my pluming mug from home.   

Soon he brings me soft-boiled eggs in scalding shells, 
smiles, leaves my breakfast koan: how to reach 
the molten core without scorched fingers 
or crunched teeth on shattered snow.  

Sol’s now leapt a wall across the street, 
dances on its top, thrusts a cutlass in my eye. 
My other pupil hides behind my nose, tries 
to focus on a poem scratched to life last night. 

I almost tossed this poem in the fireplace 
that stared at me, ashen jaws agape, as if I were 
a dentist sent to stuff it full of failed poems, 
forbid it swallow til I torched its molars clean.  

By the time my meal’s done I realize 
this poem’s going nowhere, can’t be prodded 
from the page.   When I get back I’ll have to 
crumple up its egg-stained lines, fire its twisted toes 
inside the fireplace, watch it prance for fifteen seconds, 
all it rates of Warhol fame.
         CAT’S CLAPPER 
Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat.
                 - Robert Frost 
My cat went berserk at dawn, balanced on a ladder, 
wildly swatted the doorbell clapper like he’d trapped a bat. 
Now I’m clapped inside my sports car, lolly-gagging down 
a mountain road I’d hoped would zoom my spirit free. 

Frustration yanks me out of the parade of pick-ups, 
wagons, mini-vans, halts me on the shoulder, thumbs 
tobacco in my briar pipe, bends a match’s flame. 

I rejoin the caravan, nicotine shooting 
through my veins, breathe deep, smile, 
steer one-handed, invent stories for each life 
that dawdles with me down the road. 

On semester break, I’ve fled a stack of bluebooks 
to see if muses find a roost where left-brained 
hurricanes have whipped the branches bare. 
I’m not sure which half of my gasping brain 
needs nurture, rolfing, rest, and change. 

Should I turn back to the office, slump behind 
its oblong eye, let my fingers roam the keys, 
hope they’ll stroke some lines of verse? 
Or should I pull off at the next café, guzzle 
coffee,  grab a pen, let it romp across a page?   

Mad cat whispers, When in doubt, do both!